by Tim Atkin

Youngest First

I’ve never been to a Tupperware party, let alone an Ann Summers get-together, but I have a feeling that’s where the people behind i-wine ( found their inspiration. Billed as “an interactive wine game for the senses”, featuring a “highly unique” bottle of wine, it’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to play with friends.

Like all good ideas, it’s pretty simple. A bottle arrives in a tube for you to taste blind, complete with a series of tasting notes. You have to match the wine’s aromas and flavours to one of the three descriptions on the back label, using it to identify the grape variety. There’s also a short quiz to complete while you drink what’s left. Once you’ve reached a conclusion, or disagreed among yourselves, you peel off the label to reveal the answers. Placing a few bets might add some needle.

I-wine hasn’t been on the market very long, but I think it’s a fun way to learn about vino. At the moment it stocks only two bottles online (a Chilean red and white, whose identities I’ll keep from you in case you want to buy one), but the plan is to source more over the coming months. I wish the wines were of slightly higher quality, given the price of £14.95 plus £3.95 postage and packaging, but they are certainly true to type and should teach beginners a few basics.

If you want to set up a mini-wine party of your own, my first tip is to buy two contrasting bottles. The best way to learn is to compare wines with different levels of, say, alcohol, sweetness, acidity, oak, tannin or age. Do this with friends and, if you share the cost, you can drink some pretty decent stuff. My second tip is to purchase the best examples you can afford, because the wines should be more intense, and therefore easier to log in your tasting memory bank. Or, alternatively, buy one wine at £9.99 and another at £3.49.

To get you started, I’ve chosen three pairs from the UK’s biggest supermarkets. From Asda, try the unoaked 2007 Bouchard Vin de Pays d’Oc Chardonnay (£5.98, 13%) alongside the oakier, fuller-bodied 2007 Asda Extra Special Adelaide Hills Chardonnay (£7.98, 14%). From Sainsbury’s pit the flinty, restrained 2008 Taste the Difference Pouilly-Fumé (£10.98, 12.5%) against the more overt, gooseberryish 2008 Sanctuary Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£6.99, 12.5%). And from Tesco, contrast the unoaked, unblended 2008 Tesco Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (£3.69, 12.5%) with the youthful, Cabernet-dominated 2007 Château Clos Renon, Bordeaux Supérieur (£12.99, or £6.49 until 26 August, 12.5%). See how easy it is? And it’s a lot more fun than Tupperware.

Originally published in The Observer

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